Tautz, Josef Br. (1905-1985)

Prepared by: 
Regina Ganter
Birth / Death: 

born 14 February 1905, Kunzendorf (Silesia)

died 28 July 1985, Beagle Bay, age 80

Pallottine carpenter at Tardun, Beagle Bay, Lombadina, La Grange and Balgo, trained many young Aboriginal carpenters and built the bush timber church at Lombadina.


Josef Tautz was one of four children of railway worker Franz and Berta, who moved from Kunzendorf to Protzan in 1911, where Josef attended primary school. He was then apprenticed as a carpenter in a furniture manufacture in Frankenstein. He became a postulant in Limburg at age 22 in 1927, a period of high unemployment. After two years as a novice he became a carpenter in the Pallotti houses in Alpen and Rheinberg, and made his first profession in September 1929, renewed for a further year in 1930. His eternal profession was made in Australia, on 24 September 1932.


On 11 November 1930 he departed for Australia together with Brothers Anton Boettcher and Josef Schüngel and Fr. Ernst Worms. They had the privilege of a Papal encounter in Rome.


He was a skilled and resourceful carpenter and in later years he called himself a ‘bush carpenter’. During his first year refurbished the run-down living quarters at Tardun. According to Fr. Hügel, who was there at the time, he turned it into a ‘decent monastery’ of bush timber.1


He then came to Beagle Bay to supervise the timber felling, furniture making and house construction. He was posted to various Kimberley missions including Lombadina, La Grange and Balgo according to need ‘where edifices to his untiring work stand as memorials of his dedication’. Especially at Beagle Bay he left his mark where for a long period there was ‘scarcely a building that did not bear the stamp of his work’. 2 He fashioned a large cross, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, to top the tower of the Sacred Heart church.3 During three years in Lombadina he built the timber church, the presbytery and the convent, and improved the living quarters.4


Fr. Tautz Lombadina bush church
Source: ZAPP file Tautz, Josef, Br. (1905- 1985) P.1-21
The Lombadina bush timber church, 2001.
Courtesy Roberta Cowan, Rossmoyne


He trained many young Aboriginal tradesmen and was held in high esteem for his reliability, loyalty and integrity.


Many lads and young men who worked with him and first learned from him the skills of carpentry and cabinet making were still at his death, working in many parts of Australia.


Brother Joseph was a man who, when he undertook any task, set himself diligently to complete it with the greatest expertise he could muster. He was also a man of prayer, obvious at community prayers or in the Chapel. As the general repair man he was called on by everyone to come here, go there, do this, fix that. He quietly went about his job doing everything, all in good time, methodically, accurately and conscientiously. 5


He also became bricklayer and electrician at Beagle Bay. During World War II he performed the whole electric installation of a Southern Cross power engine to supply the mission with electricity.


In October 1940 the German missionaries were interned as enemy aliens, but released after ten days. In consequence Br. Tautz applied for naturalisation in 1948, and his notice of intention was published in the Northern Times in December 1949 and April 1950.6


When he was 59, he started the building of a new monastery at Beagle Bay after tropical cyclone Bessie, which destroyed La Grange mission on 9 and 10 January 1964. 7


For the 50th jubilee of his profession in 1979 Pallottines came from all around, and sang the Gregorian Mass Missa de Angelis, as reported in a feature by Fr. Hügel in the Pallottine newsletter Australische Mitteilungen titled ‘A man was sent – his name was Joseph’. He died in Broome hospital and is buried ‘at his beloved Beagle Bay’.




1 Francis Huegel SAC, ‘A Man was sent - his name was Joseph’, Australische Mitteilungen Nr 4, Sept 1979.

2 Pallottine Necrology, MS of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Australia) Archives, Rossmoyne.

3 Ernst Worms, ‘Brothers in Australia’ in in Worms, Ernst, P (1891 -1963) P.1-27, ZAPP.

4 Francis Huegel SAC, ‘A Man was sent - his name was Joseph’, Australische Mitteilungen Nr 4, Sept 1979.

5 Pallottine Necrology, MS of the the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Australia) Archives, Rossmoyne.

6 "Advertising." Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA : 1905 - 1952) 15 Dec 1949: 6. Web. 25 Sep 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74963760>.

"Advertising." Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA : 1905 - 1952) 6 Apr 1950: 2. Web. 25 Sep 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74964534>.

7 Bishop in Broome [Jobst] to Raible, 30 July 1964, in Raible, Otto, ep (Nachlass), ZAPP.